PD: Planning for Questioning

Page 1

James Calleja



Ø To develop teachers’ self-­‐awareness and analysis of their own questioning techniques Ø To identify key features of effective questioning Ø To enhance the planning for and the use of divergent questions Ø To identify relevant questioning skills and plans, for professional development, which teachers can then pursue


The principles below are taken from the PRIMAS PD materials available online: www.primas-­‐project.eu The following are five research-­‐based principles for effective questioning

The teacher plans questions that encourage thinking and reasoning.

Every student is included.

Students are given time to think.

The teacher avoids judging students’ responses.

Students’ responses are followed up to encourage deeper thinking.


Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry


Mary Budd Rowe (1972) and later, Robert J. Stahl (1985) studied the concept of ‘think-­‐time’ and found that periods of silence that followed teacher questions and students' completed responses rarely lasted more than 1.5 seconds in typical classrooms. They discovered, however, that when these periods of silence lasted at least 3 seconds, many positive things happened to students' and teachers' behaviours and attitudes. To achieve such benefits, teachers were urged and encouraged to ‘wait’ in silence for 3 or more seconds after their questions, and after students completed their responses. Research (Rowe 1972; Stahl 1990) shows that when students are given 3 or more seconds of undisturbed ‘think-­‐time’, there are positive outcomes from students related to: ü

An increased length and correctness of responses;


A decrease in ‘I don't know’ and no answer responses;


A sharp increase in the number of volunteered, appropriate answers by larger numbers of students;


An increase in academic achievement scores.

Also, when teachers wait patiently in silence for 3 or more seconds, positive changes in their own behaviors occur: ü

Their questioning strategies tend to be more varied and flexible;


They decrease the quantity and increase the quality and variety of their questions;


They ask additional questions that require more complex information processing and higher-­‐level thinking on the part of students.

Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry



The questions below are taken from the PRIMAS PD materials available online: www.primas-­‐project.eu Consider the following questions used at different phases of an inquiry-­‐based lesson.

Beginning an Inquiry

• • • • • •

What do you already know that might be useful here? What sort of diagram might be helpful? Can you invent a simple notation for this? How can you simplify this problem? What is known and what is unknown? What assumptions might we make?

Progressing with an Inquiry

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Where have you seen something like this before? What is fixed here, and what can we change? What is the same and what is different here? What would happen if I changed this… to this...? Is this approach going anywhere? What will you do when you get that answer? This is just a special case of ... what? Can you form any hypotheses? Can you think of any counterexamples? What mistakes have we made? Can you suggest a different way of doing this? What conclusions can you make from this data? How can we check this calculation without doing it all again? What is a sensible way to record this?

Interpreting and evaluating the results of an Inquiry

• • • • • • • • •

How can you best display your data? Is it better to use this type of chart or that one? Why? What patterns can you see in this data? What reasons might there be for these patterns? Can you give me a convincing argument for that statement? Do you think that answer is reasonable? Why? How can you be 100% sure that is true? Convince me! What do you think of Anne's argument? Why? Which method might be best to use here? Why?

Communicating conclusions and reflecting

• • • • • • •

What method did you use? What other methods have you considered? Which of your methods was the best? Why? Which method was the quickest? Where have you seen a problem like this before? What methods did you use last time? Would they have worked here? What helpful strategies have you learned for next time?

Teachers plan effective questions beforehand. It is usually helpful to plan sequences of questions that build on and extend students' thinking. The teacher needs to remain flexible and allow time for students to follow up responses.


Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry


When you decide on a problem to try with your class, use the ‘Planning for Effective Questioning’ table, provided in the next page, to plan your lesson that will engage students in thinking and reasoning.

You may find the following questions taken from the PRIMAS PD materials useful. www.primas-­‐project.eu

How will you organise the classroom?

How will you introduce the questioning session?

Which ground rules will you establish?

What will be your first question?

How will you give time for students to think before responding?

Will you need to intervene at some point to refocus or discuss different strategies that they are using?

What questions will you use in the plenary discussion?

Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry



The table below is taken from the PRIMAS PD materials available online: www.primas-­‐project.eu

Plan how you will arrange the room and the resources needed

Arrange students so that they can see and hear one another as well as the teacher. You may need to rearrange chairs in a U shape or the students could move and ‘perch’ closer together. Or maybe you will move to the back of the room so that the question is the focus of attention and not the teacher.

Plan how you will introduce the questioning session

Silence will be hard for you to bear in the classroom but the students may find it confusing or even threatening. Explain why there will be times of quiet. For example:

If you are using ‘No hands up’ then you will need to explain this to the students. Some teachers have had to ask their students to sit on their hands so that they remember not to put their hands up. The Plan how you students will be allowed to put their hands up to ask a question, so if will establish the a hand shoots up remember to ask them what question they would ground rules like to ask. The students may also be used to giving short answers so you could introduce a minimum length rule e.g. ‘your answer must be five words in length as a minimum’.

Plan the first question that you will use

Plan the first question and think about how you will continue. You cannot plan this exactly as it will depend on the answers that the students give but you might, for example, plan to take

• One answer and then ask others what they think about the reasoning given

• Two or three answers without comment then ask the next

person to say what is similar or different about those answers

• Will you allow 3-­‐5 seconds between asking a question and expecting an answer?

Plan how you will give thinking time

• Will you ask the students to think – pair – share, giving 30

seconds for talking to a partner before offering an idea in whole class discussion?

• Will you use another strategy that allows the students time to think?

Plan how and when you will intervene

Will you need to intervene at some point to refocus students' attention or discuss different strategies they are using? Have one or two questions ready to ask part way through the lesson to check on their progress and their learning.

Plan what questions you Try not to pass judgments on their responses while they do this or could use for the this may influence subsequent contributions. plenary at the end of the lesson


Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry


Source: Training materials for the foundation subjects – Module 4: Questioning http://teachertools.londongt.org/en-­‐GB/resources/Ks3_module_questioning.pdf

Why is questioning important? • Questions are the most common form of interaction between teachers and students in whole-­‐class lessons as well as in group and individual work. • Questioning is a key method of altering the level of challenge provided and determining the progress made in lessons. • It is an immediate way for the teacher to check the effectiveness of teaching and thus to assess learning. The purposes of questioning • To prompt students’ interest and to challenge students to create new understandings. • To develop thinking from the concrete and factual to the analytical and the evaluative. • To check prior knowledge and assess students on the key issues. • To promote reasoning, problem solving, evaluation and the formulation of hypotheses. What is effective questioning? • It is closely linked to the learning objectives in the lesson. • It is staged so that the level of challenge in the lesson may be increased to match students’ potential. • Group and paired work can allow questions to be matched to the level of challenge needed to move different students forward. • Closed questions check students’ knowledge and understanding. • Open questions have more than one possible answer. A well-­‐designed set of questions leads students from unsorted knowledge to organised understanding. It models how learning evolves. • Effective questioning provides opportunities for students to ask their own questions, to seek their own answers and to provide feedback to each other. • Effective questioning makes space for students to listen to each other’s questions and answers as well as to the teacher’s. • Effective questioning requires an atmosphere where students feel secure enough to take risks or be tentative.

Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry



1. Planning for questioning Plan examples of effective questions and include them in lesson planning. Focus on questions that engage students in thinking, reasoning and justification. Ensure that key questions are answered by the lesson. The plenary can then be based on these questions. Ensure that there is a balance between asking and telling. 2. Asking open/divergent questions Make sure the question has more than one possible answer. Don’t have a single ‘right’ answer in your head that students have to get to! Follow up answers with words and phrases like ‘Explain’, ‘Why?’, ‘What makes you think that?’ and ‘Tell me more’, to provide greater challenge, encourage speaking at greater length and get students thinking around the question in greater depth. Encourage students to ask their own questions. Use techniques such as: ‘What do you already know about...? What do you want to know? How will you find out?’ 3. Questioning for collaborative work Begin a lesson by giving pairs of students a question to answer from the last lesson. Ask pairs to discuss a question for a minute before they answer it. Bounce off responses from one student to another so that students may themselves evaluate and build on the ideas of others. Create an environment of trust where students’ opinions and ideas are valued.

4. Using questioning in your class Give students time to answer – count a few seconds in your head to allow slower students to form a response. Use a ‘no hands up’ approach to eliminate competitiveness and support those students who usually need more time to think. Involve all the students. Allow students time to think about answers to more complex questions, either individually or collaboratively. Encourage students to seek answers to their own questions. Treat answers with respect and give students credit for trying.


Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry


Source: Training materials for the foundation subjects – Module 4: Questioning http://teachertools.londongt.org/en-­‐GB/resources/Ks3_module_questioning.pdf

Alternative strategy

Example Would you say a little more about that?


I am not sure I understand what you mean by that.


What if...?


You could try...


Let’s bring this all our ideas together...


I especially liked... because...


Can you elaborate a bit on what you have just said about…?


Am I right in saying that...?



So, you think… Alex seems to be saying that… Eye contact, a nod or raised eyebrows to encourage extended responses, to challenge or even to express surprise

Teaching and Learning Mathematics through Inquiry


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